In my favorite I Love Lucy episode, Lucy and Ethel take jobs on a candy factory assembly line. Their task is to put the chocolates into paper wrappers. It’s their last job at the factory—they’ve failed at all others—and the supervisor tells them that if they don’t perform at this task, they’re fired. They have no problem with the first few candies, but then the production belt increases in speed, until the workload overwhelms their ability to maintain the pace. Mayhem ensues as Lucy and Ethel try to hide the fact that they can’t keep up, so they eat some of the chocolates, hide others in their hats and down the front of their uniforms, and throw some out. The supervisor comes in, sees no chocolate unwrapped, and shouts “Speed it up!”
Babysitting grandchildren resembles this I Love Lucy episode. When your children and their spouses or partners entrust you with helping care for their firstborn, you work really hard to keep up the pace. You take a first aid course, read up on childcare issues on the web, leaf through the parenting books that lie around the new families’ houses. You learn how to take orders from your own children, how to give an opinion very carefully and usually just when asked (although not always), how to heat up and bottle-feed breast milk and formula, and how to assemble and apply a varied assortment of diapers with names like Bum Genius.
Through all this your children thank you profusely for the babysitting. They know you love their baby (and them), and will always do your best to protect and care for their precious little one. They are grateful for the money they are saving with you providing free labor. And they don’t seem to mind when you straighten up their kitchen or sweep up crumbs from under the dining room table.
But one day, they watch you more carefully, with a critical eye. They decide that you are doing very well at your grand-parenting job. They might even tell you so. Then what you find out, with a shock, is that they’ve decided you’re doing so well that they are going to speed up your conveyor belt. They’re going to give you a second grandchild to take care of! And unlike the I Love Lucy episode, you can’t hide the baby under your candy factory hat. You have to become more efficient, able to feed the baby a bottle while chasing the toddler who is hell-bent on hurting himself. You have to juggle two nap schedules that don’t sync with each other. You have to play referee in the toy department. And you have to make time to enjoy loving both of these precious little gifts.
Speed it up!